NEA head issues warning over school reopening drive, says ‘face masks alone’ will cost ‘millions of dollars’

Nationa Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia fired back at President Trump on “The Story” Friday after the president repeated his threat to withhold federal funds from districts that keep their doors closed to in-person instruction this fall.

“We need to have disinfected schools and we need to have handwashing stations and we need to have the ability to distance those kids, we need everything the CDC guidance is telling us we need to make sure our schools can open safely,” Garcia told host Trace Gallagher.

“So that’s what we’ve asked, [is] for Congress to consider public schools in the same way they considered those business investments where they gave a lot of businesses money [through the Paycheck Protection Program],” she said. “We actually supported that because it’s our students’ families that were supported by that bill.”


Garcia noted that local tax revenues that normally help fund public schools have “fallen off a cliff” due to the pandemic, forcing them to turn to Washington.

“We were just stunned to hear Donald Trump say there is no help that we can get,” she said. “We don’t have a budget for disinfectants and hand sanitizers, we are going to need some help.”

Gallagher noted that Garcia has been “no fan” of the president, to which she responded that lawmakers cannot let schools run take the trial-and-error approach to reopening that has led to some businesses being shut down again in parts of the country.

“Nobody expected anything like this [pandemic],” she said. “It does take an emergency mindset, but when we said, ‘OK, here’s the things we don’t have and our funding has fallen off the cliff, Donald Trump said it’s dead on arrival when we got this HEORES Act out of the House and now it’s in the Senate and no one is talking, no one is using the word ‘safely’.”

The HEROES Act doles out doles out $1,200 per month to eligible individuals, up to $6,000 per household, extends a top-up of $600 to be added to state unemployment benefits through January 2021, and provides $175 billion for families to pay their mortgages and rent. It also includes student loan forgiveness, an employee retention tax credit and increases maximum SNAP benefits by 15 percent.


But tucked into the legislation are line items expanding $1,200 checks to certain undocumented immigrants, restoring the full State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT) that helps individuals in high-taxed blue states, a $25 billion rescue for the U.S. Postal Service, allowing legal marijuana businesses to access banking services and early voting and vote-by-mail provisions.

“There is no one, not an infectious disease professional [nor] an educator and I don’t think there’s a parent, not a Republican parent, not a Democratic parent, that thinks teachers can go out of their own pockets to buy these things,” Garcia went on. “It will take a lot of money, just for the face masks alone, millions of dollars — but help us like they helped businesses.”

Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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